City must win every game to retain title: Guardiola

LIVERPOOL: Liverpool powered back to the top of the Premier League after Mohamed Salah’s stunning strike clinched a 2-0 win over Chelsea yesterday. Jurgen Klopp’s side had surrendered pole position a few hours earlier when Manchester City won 3-1 at Crystal Palace, piling pressure on the Reds to respond as the title race heats up.

LONDON: Manchester City’s English midfielder Raheem Sterling (L) vies with Crystal Palace’s Ivorian striker Wilfried Zaha (R) during the English Premier League football match between Crystal Palace and Manchester City at Selhurst Park in south London yesterday. – AFP

Liverpool rose to the challenge as Sadio Mane’s opener five minutes after the break and a blistering long-range drive from Salah two minutes later moved them two points clear of second-placed City on a raucous afternoon at Anfield.

City have five games left compared to just four for Liverpool, leaving the destiny of the title in the hands of the champions. But there is a growing feeling at Anfield that this will be the season Liverpool finally end their 29-year wait to be crowned kings of English football.

Chelsea posed the last major threat to Liverpool’s title bid, yet the leaders dealt with the challenge impressively to mark Klopp’s 200th game as Reds manager in style. With City having difficult league fixtures looming against Tottenham and Manchester United, Klopp’s men are convinced they can hold onto pole position.

Their run-in is undoubtedly less daunting than City’s, with Cardiff, Huddersfield and Newcastle on the schedule before a potential title party against Wolves at Anfield. For fourth-placed Chelsea, the loss was a blow to their bid for Champions League football next season and they will drop to fifth if Arsenal win at Watford today.

On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster that killed 96 Liverpool fans and in the week that club legend Tommy Smith passed away, there was even more emotion at Anfield than usual. After a minute’s silence featuring mosaics reading “30 years” and “96” held up by fans around the ground, Liverpool’s focus was trained on avenging one of the more painful defeats in the club’s recent history.

Steven Gerrard’s infamous slip in 2014 led to a defeat against Chelsea that effectively gifted the title to Manchester City when Liverpool had looked odds-on to lift the trophy.

But Klopp insisted his players wouldn’t be haunted by the ghosts of that collapse and they were true to his word. Liverpool threatened an early goal when Mane whipped a pin-point cross towards Salah and he fired a volley that Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga held well.

Manchester City must win their remaining five Premier League games to retain the title, insisted Pep Guardiola as his side took top spot from Liverpool with a 3-1 win at Crystal Palace yesterday. Raheem Sterling scored twice as City rarely looked troubled despite having failed to beat Palace in their last two meetings. “We think Liverpool is able to win all the games,” said Guardiola. “In the Premier League the position is in our hands and we need to win all the games. “There is no other chance if we want to make back-to-back (titles).”

Guardiola’s men had to see out a nervous finale at Selhurst Park to ramp up the pressure on Liverpool when Luka Milivojevic’s free-kick gave Palace hope of a dramatic comeback nine minutes from time.

Instead, City broke to seal the three points on the counter-attack when the outstanding Kevin de Bruyne teed up Gabriel Jesus to make it 3-1. The trip to south London kicked off a massive week for City with Tottenham to visit the Etihad Stadium twice in the next six days for the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final and a vital Premier League clash with implications for both the title and top four race.

City must overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit against Spurs to progress to the Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday. Yet, Guardiola’s starting line-up seemed stronger than the one he named in defeat to Mauricio Pochettino’s men in midweek.

Sterling should have opened the scoring on 11 minutes when after a patient build-up, David Silva got to the by-line and picked out the England international, who somehow sliced wide with an open goal at his mercy from close range.

After a similar sitter at Burnley last season, Guardiola quickly hooked Sterling in his frustration. However, Sterling showed his maturity and why he is a contender for player of the year awards by redeeming himself in emphatic fashion just four minutes later.

A rare Palace foray forward left them exposed at the back and De Bruyne’s sensational through ball allowed Sterling to break clear before side-footing the ball high beyond Vicente Guaita. “The one at Burnley was worse,” added Guardiola with a smile. – AFP